Know the Basics
If you would like to make
Buddhism your religion, there are some things to consider. First, you should be familiar with the basic tenants of Buddhism
such as karma, rebirth, Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path, the Five Precepts, the Nembutsu, the Pure
Land, and Amida Buddha. It is not necessary to accept all of these concepts
in the beginning, but one should be willing to consider them. The Buddha never asked his disciples to believe something
because he said it. He said that one needed to prove it true for oneself.
Understanding is Important
understanding is the most important thing and understanding takes time. So do not impulsively rush into Buddhism. Take your
time, ask questions, consider carefully, and then make your decision. The Buddha was not interested in having a large number
of disciples. He was concerned that people should follow his teachings as a result of a careful investigation, consideration
of the facts and personal experience.
How do I become a Buddhist?
Join a Buddhist sangha (a
temple, church or group), support them, be supported by them and continue to learn more about the Buddha's teachings. Read
about the teachings, apply them in your life, attend services and retreats, open your heart and mind to the working of Great
Compassion. Then, when you are ready, you can formally become a Buddhist by undertaking the Affirmation or Ordination
Affirmation and Ordination
The decision to become a Buddhist
is marked by either Affirmation or Ordination Ceremony. These two types of ceremonies are different but share certain religious
aspects. First of all, the Affirmation Ceremony or the Kikyoshiki is unique to
Shin Buddhism only. It is a form of personal religious confirmation, in which the participant publicly acknowledges
his/her orientation and commitment to the Pure Land path of Shinran Shonin and the recognition of the working of Great Compassion (Other
Power) in their lives. At the Buddhist Faith Fellowship, one must successfully take the Discovering Buddhism 101 Course
in order to participate in this ceremony. We believe that one should have some background in the Buddha’s life, teachings
and practices in order to undertake such an important ritual.
As stated above, this ceremony
is unique to Shin Buddhism, which is a lay religious movement and not a religious order. This ceremony does not entail the
transmission of the Three Jewels or the Five or Ten Precepts from teacher (monk) to disciple. In Shin Buddhism,
we are each others teachers. Moreover, according to Shin Buddhism, the ultimate transmission can only come from the direct
and personal experience of the working of Great Compassion, which is called shinjin or true entrusting. What's more, Shin
Buddhism does not formally have lay precepts, which can be received from human to human transmission; instead they manifest
naturally through the shinjin experience.
The Affirmation Ceremony allows
the participant to publicly acknowledge his/her personal faith experience in the Buddha (Amida), the Dharma
(the teachings and the truth) and the Sangha (those who practice the dharma and entrust themselves to the infinite
life and light). Furthermore, the Affirmation Ceremony may also confirm the Five Precepts as the best ways to compassionately
live in our suffering world. Again, this is not a transmission of the ethical code but just a reminder of its importance. In
addition, the Affirmation Ceremony may include the reciting of the Six Paramitas, the Bodhisattva Vows and/or the Shin Buddhist
Affirmation as reminders of the Buddhist path. In this ceremony, recipients are given a Buddhist name (homyo), an Affirmation
Certificate and Shin Buddhist Okesa. There is usually a small donation requested to cover the costs.
In contrast, the Ordination Ceremony
is only conferred by a fully ordained monk, in which the lay participant receives the human to human or teacher to student, transmission
of the Three Jewels and the Five Precepts and sometimes even can take the Bodhisattva Vows. The participant is then ordained
as a lay follower or as it is know in Sanskrit as an upasaka (ordained lay male follower) or upasika (ordained lay female
follower). He/she then receives a certificate and a Buddhist name. As a result, the ordainee is formally initiated as
a lay member and linked to a monastic order, in which he/she dedicates him/herself to the Three Jewels and
the Five Precepts. The ordaining monk is usually seen as the lay followers main teacher. These ordained lay
followers may then, in the future, decide to intensify their practice and become fully ordained as monks (bhikkus) or
nuns. The Ordination Ceremony is conducted by monastic orders only. Since the BFF is a lay congregation, it does
not conduct ordinations. If you are interested in lay ordination please refer to a local Buddhist temple or center with a
resident monk or nun.
What is the Meaning of Taking Refuge?
take refuge in the Three Jewels is to change the direction of ones life and make an effort to embody the Buddha, the Dharma
and the Sangha.
take refuge in the Buddha is to take refuge in the living source of understanding, faith and compassion, symbolized as Amida,
the Buddha of Eternal Life and Light and her historical human manifestation, Shakyamuni Buddha. One sees the historical Buddha
as the greatest teacher and the embodiment of our true human potential.
take refuge in the Dharma is to take refuge in Reality-as-it-is, the Ocean
of Oneness, the Buddhas teachings and the path of understanding, faith
take refuge in the Sangha is to take refuge in the community that practices according to the Buddhist path and strives to
manifest and embody Enlightenment here on Earth.
Three Jewels are present in every quarter of the universe as well as in our hearts, in every person and in all other species
inhabiting every galaxy. By dedicating ourselves to learn, practice and embody the Three Jewels, you will have the proven
vehicle to nourish the ability to love and understand within ourselves
Affirmation ceremony is the first step to becoming a disciple of Buddha. You begin the process to be transformed from
within. Gradually, through the working of Other Power, you will be made to deeply realize that each of us is the main concern
of Great Compassion. As Shinran Shonin said, we who are like rubble will be turned into gold.
|The colors of Buddha's enlightenment
|The official Buddhist Flag
Taking the Bodhisattva Vows
The Bodhisattva Vows are the
very essence of the Mahayana (Universal Vehicle) Buddhism. They are the torch lighting our spiritual path. These Vows are
the great boat that carries us all to the Other Shore, the Pure Land,
and the inspiration guiding us in this life with the great heart of compassion and love. A Bodhisattva is a being that devotes
him or herself to compassionate deeds, striving to benefit all beings and seeking their Enlightenment before his or her own.
By taking refuge in the Bodhisattva
Vows, we endow our lives with profound spiritual meaning. They allow us to embody our highest religious aspirations, in which
we commit ourselves to deeper understanding and love and selfless service. They have the power to transform us into gentle
spiritual warriors with courageous armor of patience, perseverance and mindfulness, and enduring arrows of generosity, wisdom
These Vows are a living promise
that we reaffirm everyday, not just once in a lifetime. Therefore, we should strive to recite them regularly and practice
Sentient Beings are numberless,
I vow to save them all.
vow to end them all.
Dharmas are boundless,
I vow to learn them all.
Buddha Way is unsurpassable,
vow to embody it.
Taking the Five Precepts
The Fivefold Precepts
have the capacity to protect life and make our lives beautiful. They are not rules or commandments but are guidelines to wholesome
and ethical living and truly witness our commitment to live an awakened life. Through
the compassionate working of Amida in our lives, we are empowered to better practice them and are encouraged to move forward
in the direction of peace, joy and awakening. Likewise, they are the foundation for the happiness of the individual, family
and society. These Precepts help us avoid making mistakes and creating suffering, fear and despair but instead bring joy,
understanding and peace into our suffering world.
The Five Precepts are
1. I practice the training of love, I refrain from killing.
2. I practice the training of generosity, I refrain from stealing.
3. I practice the training of contentment, I refrain from sexual misconduct.
4. I practice the training of mindful speech, I refrain from harmful
I practice the training of mindful consumption; I refrain from intoxicants
& harmful substances that harm myself, society
and the environment.
A Path for All
We are talking about going
on a wonderful path and living a new kind of lifestyle. For 2,500 years, Buddhism has been a proven path for millions of practitioners.
It may be now up to you to travel it too. You must understand this is completely possible; there is no reason at all that
you cannot travel this path. This is the beauty of the Pure Land teachings: it is completely available
to all whether we are saints or sinners, ignorant or wise. Remember Great Compassion always remain with us. She is moving,
seeking and working to liberate you from suffering. Just stop, take notice and be grateful.